By Carol Lakay
I met Songo Fipaza about three years ago when he was the recipient of the Mayoral e’Bosch Honorary Award for his work amongst the youth in Kayamandi. His humbleness was the first thing I noticed. Since then, I have kept in touch with him.
He is passionate about his hometown of Kayamandi, Stellenbosch. His dream is to have a swimming pool built for his community.
He was also responsible for bringing a BMX track (with the assistance of Christoph Sauser) to Kayamandi. For more information see their website: www.songo.info/home
Songo Fipaza: Picture – www.songo.info
On the 9th of September 2017, he was responsible for another milestone in Kaymandi. Kaymandi parkrun was launched! Yes, this late bloomer; he learned to swim at the age of 40, is a go-getter. http://www.parkrun.co.za/kayamandi/ I was present for the launch and what an occasion it was! Bruce Fordyce, the patron for parkrun, officially opened the Kayamandi parkrun.
On Sunday 3 September, a group of us ‘tested’ the route. Me, battling out the hills!
See his plight to raise funds for the swimming pool below. To donate, go to www.crowdrise.com/a-pool-for-kayamandi and make a donation.
Below his story, as it appears on the Crowdrise Fundraiser website: www.crowdrise.com/a-pool-for-kayamandi.
To help fill this gap in services and infrastructure, in 2008, I worked with local and international athletes, non-profits, and companies to build an afterschool cycling and tutoring program in Kayamandi (www.songo.info). The project includes a BMX program where we take kids from 5 to 14 years old and teach them to ride bicycles, and a mountain biking program for kids 14 and older. Kids come to the clubhouse after school and work with a tutor to complete their homework, and then work with a coach on their cycle training. On the weekends, they take part in sporting events around the country including BMX races, mountain biking events and stage races, and duathlons.
Bringing Swimming Safety to Kayamandi
It is my dream to expand the programs available to the community to include swimming. Despite living only a short drive from two oceans, very few children in Kayamandi have the opportunity to learn to swim. There has long been a false stereotype in South Africa that black people cannot swim. Even though the kids don’t know how to swim, many often go to unsafe places to swim on hot days—like local dams on nearby farms or other unsupervised areas where no one is monitoring their safety.
My dream is to build a pool within Kayamandi itself to offer swimming programs for the kids. This will not only open up a whole new sport for them, it will help ensure that they have a safe, supervised environment to swim in.
I also grew up without knowing how to swim. In 2014, at the age of 40, I decided to change that and challenge these harmful racial stereotypes about swimming. I strongly believe anyone can learn to swim if given the opportunity. In preparation for competing in the Ironman triathlon, I learned to swim in six months. For Ironman, I went from not being able to swim to complete a 3.8 km in open water, followed by cycling 180 km and then running a marathon—that was Ironman South Africa 2015.
In 2016 and 2017, I completed Ironman South Africa again, as well as the London marathon, as part of my mission to try and fulfil the dream of building a community pool in Kayamandi. If I can learn to swim at 40 and complete Ironman, imagine what kids in Kayamandi could do with the opportunity to learn to swim—they can participate in swimming safely, compete in triathlons, and even in the Olympics or Commonwealth games. Please help me to fulfil this dream by donating to build the Kayamandi Swimming Pool to provide a safe place for the kids to swim and fulfil their dreams. If you have questions about the project, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.